Down their top two centers in Mathew Barzal (lower body) and Alexander True, the latter competing in the 2014 World Junior Challenge for Team Denmark, the Thunderbirds moved captain Justin Hickman to the center position on their top line.
After his poor rookie campaign, there was almost zero buzz surrounding the forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two short months have changed that. The word is out, and it would be more surprising now if Kolesar weren’t a high-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Friday’s victory came on the heels of a dominant 4-1 win over Spokane Sunday when the team opened a 2-0 lead. Suddenly, Seattle (12-12-2-2) has won three of its last four after losing five of six.
Seattle’s 6-foot-2 leading scorer entered Friday’s contest with 12 goals and 10 assists through 27 games. He now has 13 goals and 11 assists for a six-point advantage over the Thunderbirds’ next leading scorer.
Riding an emotional 3-2 win over the Silvertips, Seattle (10-12-2-2) opened a four-game homestand with a flat performance against the Ice. Since the departure of Barzal due to a lower-body injury, Seattle is 3-7. Comparatively, its opponent Saturday is 8-2 since the return of star center Sam Reinhart.
In an even first period where shots on goal were 12 apiece, consecutive tripping penalties called on the T-Birds with under six minutes to play led to a 5-on-3 power play for the Chiefs who quickly capitalized.
The NHL Central Scouting department released its November Watch List for 2015 Entry Draft eligible prospects who are displaying the skills that may warrant selection. In addition to center Mathew Barzal who was given an “A” grade, Seattle forwards Ryan Gropp and Keegan Kolesar were tagged with “B” grades. T-Birds defenseman Ethan Bear received a “C” grade.
Seattle (9-10-2-1) returns home for six of its next seven games after a 2-4 road swing through the Eastern Conference. The trip started off well enough with a 6-2 win over Prince Albert, only to end with losses in four of the final five games.
Kozun posted 37 saves and Justin Hickman scored both regulation goals as well as the lone shootout marker to lead the Thunderbirds to an important win as it heads on a 11-day, six-game road trip through the Eastern Conference.
In spite of 38 shots on goal, Seattle could not put a puck past Vancouver (7-8) goaltender Cody Porter in a 1-0 loss to a Giants squad that entered with a four-game losing streak. Vancouver’s Alec Baer scored the decisive goal, beating Taran Kozun at 12:46 of the third period.